Maintaining Culture and Efficiency With Remote Workers.

This is a guest post by Rae Steinbach Thank you, Rae, for writing this for me. 

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While the traditional office might not be a thing of the past, the relationship many employees have to these shared work environments is changing. According to a report from IWG, 70% of employees are working remotely at least one day a week, and 53% are doing at least half their work at a location other than the office.

Some companies have embraced the shift toward remote work and have smoothly transitioned to more flexible arrangements. For managers that have a more traditional outlook, the trend of increased work away from the office is troubling. The primary concern for many of these managers is the worry that they will not be able to effectively manage employees if they are not in the office with them.

This concern is understandable, but there are significant benefits that can come with allowing employees to work away from the office. Many employees today prefer the flexibility that comes with being able to do work elsewhere. They may have family obligations or are indulging in the digital nomad lifestyle. Allowing for remote work can be an incentive that helps businesses attract top talent when hiring. In fact, 74% of employees said they would leave their current job for one that allows for more remote work.

Culture and Remote Work

Creating and maintaining a culture can be difficult when employees do not regularly share the same physical space. However, you need to remember that culture is not bound to a location; it is a set of values, beliefs, and ideals that your company keeps alive with various practices. Some of these can be performed remotely, like all-hands meetings via video calls. Sharing a common work environment might be an advantage for culture, but it is not a necessity. Company leaders just need to take steps to keep the culture in place for employees that work away from the office.

If you have offices, they should still play a role in the working life of employees. One way to do this is to set a minimum number of days per month that have to be spent in the office. You can also do things to make the office a more attractive work environment. If workstations are comfortable and have all of the tools an employee could need, like green plants and standing desks, your people might prefer to spend more time there.

Team events are another good way to make sure employees get some in-person time with each other. Face-to-face meetings are beneficial for building team cohesion, so try to get your employees together as a group. Hold training seminars to get everyone together; if the company is reaching an important milestone, celebrate as a team. These events can be great for building connections and maintaining a vibrant work culture.

Remote Worker Productivity

Some leaders might worry about a drop in productivity if they let their employees work outside the office. For the most part, the keys to avoiding this are to make sure employees understand your expectations and to instill accountability as an important part of the company culture.

For example, the management by objectives process encourages managers and employees to set goals together, and share progress regularly. This then allows leaders to have a more accurate idea of how remote workers are performing and reaching key objectives.

Working remotely comes with its own set of skills, so create trainings that ensure communication and performance remain as fluid as if everyone was working in house. For some employees, skills like time management will come naturally, but this is not true for everyone. If you want your employees to have success as remote workers, check-in regularly to see if these need to be changed or refreshed.

Managers can also leverage technologies that can simplify remote work. Modern communication technology offers a range of platforms that can make it easier to stay in contact with remote workers, and there are project management applications that can be used to ensure collaborative work stays on track.

Finally, hold regular in-person (or video) meetings to give everyone a chance to check in. The frequency and format of these meetings will depend on the specific culture and work-cadence at your company, but assemble everyone as often as is practical to go over the progress they are making on key projects. These meetings are also a fantastic opportunity for employees to give updates and appreciations to each other, and for managers to provide important news about the company.

Remote work shouldn’t be viewed as a compromise by management. When done well, it can be a way to increaseproductivity and allow people the space needed to access more creativity. As a leader, you just need to take the right steps to build a culture where people want to perform and produce for the good of all.

Rae is a graduate of Tufts University with a combined International Relations and Chinese degree. After spending time living and working abroad in China, she returned to NYC to pursue her career and continue curating quality content for the HR industry. Her specialization is in performance management and leveraging team talent for the future of work. Rae is passionate about travel, food, and writing, of course.

Using Personal Roles to Organize Files and Evernote Tags

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This is a guest post by Ernie Hayden. Read more from Ernie right here and see his photos here.

In the early phases of my productivity journey I read Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, listened to Getting Things Done Fast CDs by David Allen, and listened to Tony Robbins’ The Time of Your Life cassettes. Please note this was circa 1998 or so and the Internet was not an active idea and there was no such thing as YouTube, streaming videos, productivity websites, etc. Basically, if you wanted to develop your productivity skills you needed to listen to cassette tapes, CDs, maybe watch some VHS videos, and of course, read books.

Sounds pretty amazing, doesn’t it?!

Tony Robbins’ program, The Time of Your Life, included and idea that has stuck with me for the past 20 years that I still use today. The idea revolves around what your key roles are in life.

YOUR KEY ROLES CAN BE AN EFFECTIVE WAY TO ORGANIZE YOUR SCHEDULE

Tony’s idea regarding roles is centered on developing a weekly plan. Tony tasks the listener to make a list of all the roles you are “assigned” either voluntarily or due to your position in life. Then, using these roles, actions can be assigned to each identified role with associated outcomes. Then, as you look at your weekly plan you take each role and assign an outcome/action to each day of the week.

In summary, the weekly plan has a general structure as shown below:

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The matrix above is to help you schedule your outcomes/actions based on your roles.

Admittedly, I’ve not been a disciplined follower of this approach, but I’ve carried away an organizational approach using roles that I thank Tony Robbins for even today.

STEP 1: IDENTIFY ALL THE ROLES YOU FILL

The exercise is actually fun but not as obvious as you think. The task ahead of you is to make a list of every role you fill in your day-to-day life.

Below I share my current list of roles (with some minor editing) to give you some ideas.

EXAMPLE ROLES

Employment Related

• Employee

• Consultant

• Leader/Manager

• Salesman/Seller

Personal-Related

• Husband-Father-Son

• Citizen

• Consumer

• Family Historian

• Friend & Mentor

• Home — Auto Owner

• Learner/Student

• Medical-Patient

• Money Manager

• Pet Owner

• Photographer

• Spiritual/Religious

• Teacher/Speaker

• Traveler

• Writer/Author

In my case, this is a general list of my current roles that I’ve been referencing over the past 10 years or so. These roles have become the foundation of my computer file system as well as my Evernote Notebooks/Tags.

USING THESE ROLES AS A FOUNDATION FOR FILE ORGANIZATION

So, how do I use these roles for filing? Organizing?

The approach is quite simple.

I use the list of roles identified above and simply make folders in My Documents in my computer (pre-Evernote) titled with each role. I then put sub-folders into each role folder for related files and information.

Below is a screen shot of the actual list of folders in My Documents reflecting my roles:

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Of note, the numbers are used to organize the folders in an order I prefer based on my activity and use of the folders. You can use numbers or “@” or “#” or “^”, etc. to help sort your folders to your liking.

USING ROLES IN EVERNOTE

In my productivity journey, Evernote is relatively new, even though I’ve been using Evernote since June 2011. That said, I initially began Evernote in a haphazard manner and failed to realize the strength of the tags and the search engine. But, thanks to Carl Pullein’s YouTube videos on ways to use Evernote I’ve learned a lot and was awakened to the possibility of using my “roles” for tag assignments in Evernote.

Admittedly, I’ve got some ways to go before I’ve made a complete integration of my roles into Evernote, but it is on my Todoist list!

AN ORGANIZATIONAL SIDE NOTE

You may be wondering how I use my “roles” for reference files. Well, I don’t. Instead I have developed a series of reference or “REF” folders strictly for reference materials. However, I tend to use these folders less and less as I move my reference materials to Evernote.

In case you are interested my REF folders are in the screenshot below:

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EXAMPLE USE

So, how do I use this system? I literally began by taking each item in my “Collection System” (thanks to David Allen!) and ask the two questions: “What is it?” and “Is it actionable?” Yes, I still have my project folders but generally for any reference materials or incubation or archiving I think about what “Role” the paper/email/document belongs. Then, I will file the item into the Role file/Role Sub-file as appropriate.

Later, when I am wondering about the location of an item I simply think about what “Role” the paper/email/document belongs then do a focused search in My Documents and/or Evernote or GDrive if needed.

CONCLUSION

Please understand that this article is simply to give you some ideas on ways to organize all the myriad of “things” we collect in our lives. This is one way I’ve used for at least 10 years and I will admit that as I learn new ideas on using Evernote from Carl and Francesco, I make some edits and tweaks. Overall, though, my structure and approach to file management is still a role-based system.

I hope you find this useful and if you wish, please send me the Skype number and email of your favorite psychiatrist!

Notes:

1) The graphics are developed using SnagIt 2018.

2) The Getting Things Done Fast CDs produced by David Allen are no longer available; however, if you ever have a chance to listen to them, do it! They are a fantastic resource.